“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel…” James 4:1-2
When you have conflict with your spouse, children, extended family, or friends, do you spend time evaluating the cause of the conflict? Do you chalk it up to the other party’s sin or your own?
I have read the above verse in James many times and have understood that my own pleasures are the source of conflict. But I recently came to a much better, deeper understanding that I wanted to share with you. I hope that as you read, you will be encouraged to examine your own heart and will experience God’s grace as you strive for holiness!
In recent struggles with sin in my own life, I have recently found myself reading James for wisdom. Thankfully, the Lord also Sovereignly planned for our pastor in our local congregation to be teaching through James, too! Not too long ago, he touched on the very verses I had read earlier that particular morning:
Let no man say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted
By evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away
and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin
is accomplished, it brings forth death.” James 1:13-15
As I read this text, it clicked with the help of the Holy Spirit, what the real source of my temptation is! For years, I believed it to be the enemy tempting me with various things. But, James clearly says that the source of my temptation is me! My own lust is enticing me. Wow. This was eye opening and a huge help in my daily pursuit to kill sin. I realized that the way to kill my sin is to put my lusts to death. There are examples in Scripture of people being tempted by the enemy, and Paul even encourages us to prevent him from tempting us. But with what will he lead us into temptation but our own lusts?
This led me to ask a few seemingly obvious questions: what is lust and what do I lust after? Lust isn’t just what men struggle with in relationship to women. It is a universal sin, manifesting itself in various ways.
I use the Keyword Study Bible that I’ve had since college (I’ve had it for about 10 years, believe it or not!) I love it for several reasons, one of which is that it has Hebrew and Greek definitions in the back of my Bible for many words. In James 1:14, the word “lust” is underlined so as to indicate that in the Greek, there is a far more specific explanation as to what it is. So, I looked it up and here is what I found:
The Greek word for lust, “Epithumia” is defined as “the active and individual desire resulting from the diseased condition of the soul (pathos), an impulse (orexis); lust.”
I then looked up “orexis” and found its meaning:
“Appetite, lust, or concupiscence. It is always the reaching out after and toward an object with the purpose of drawing it to itself and appropriating it.”
Next, I decided to go through a series of questions that my pastor is calling “X-Ray Questions” which are from David Powilson’s book, “Seeing with New Eyes.” Answering one question a day provides enough to meditate on and pray through, so I began with question number one:
“What do you love? Hate?”
I know what my answer should be: God’s Word, His glory, His people, righteousness, my enemies…but if I’m brutally honest, often times, this is not the case. It is especially not the case when I am experiencing conflict. Usually, I desire something else more than I desire to see God glorified or to put the others’ desires or needs above my own. This has helped me to pinpoint specific lusts or desires in order to evaluate whether or not they are God-glorifying. It just so happens that many of them (not all desires are sinful or are a source of conflict) have been a cause of conflict in my life! It has been helpful in rooting out sin and pursuing holiness in each realm and relationship in my life. I certainly have a long way to go, but I have started. I quickly found that the second “X-ray Question” is also helpful in evaluating my heart during a conflict and in evaluating whether or not to approach someone about something that could ensue in conflict:
“What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?”
It really goes hand in hand with the first question, but gets more specific. Answering this question has helped me to especially recognize pride in several areas of my life. It has been humbling and has reminded me of my need to walk by the Spirit, take my thoughts captive and of my need to meditate on Scripture.
The following verses from 1 John 2: 15-17 came to my mind when I was seeking to answer these questions:
“Do not love the world, not the things of the world. If anyone loves the world,
the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world,
the lust of the flesh,
and the lust of the eyes,
and the boastful pride of life
is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away,
and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.”
So, if I am following after my lusts, I love the world and the things of the world. Lord, help me to love You and Your Word!
So where are you? Are you aware of the lusts that cause you to sin? Check back tomorrow when we examine what to do with these lusts that so easily steer us.